The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is devoting a substantial percentage of its enforcement actions to stormwater permitting issues and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is following suit. With the deadline for implementing the new monitoring requirements under Minnesota's Industrial Stormwater Multi-Sector General Permit looming as early as June 2011 for some facilities, owners and operators of covered facilities will need to be proactive to ensure that their operations are in full compliance so as to avoid enforcement actions. Here are some of the things that you should be doing:

  • Get Covered. Facilities that are required to obtain coverage under the new Permit should have submitted a Permit application and the associated Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) last year. Initially, the MPCA will be focusing its enforcement efforts on facilities that failed to apply for coverage in the first place. It is critical, therefore, that you immediately assess whether your facility is subject to the new Permit and, if it is, act quickly to submit your application and SWPPP (a detailed map and assessment of stormwater runoff) to the MPCA.
  • Implement Best Management Practices Now. If you have obtained coverage under the Permit, now is the time to finalize the implementation of any structural or operational best management practices (BMPs) that are required. Prompt action will enable you to refine your BMPs before monitoring begins and to minimize the risk of exceeding the benchmark monitoring levels. If the results of your monitoring exceed these benchmark levels, you will be required to continue monitoring next year. If the monitoring does not exceed these benchmark levels, however, further monitoring is generally not required.
  • Get Your Timing Down. When it comes to maintaining compliance under the new Permit, timing is everything. Facilities must begin monitoring one year after they receive coverage under the Permit. Thus, a facility that applied for and received coverage on June 1, 2010, must begin its monitoring in June 2011. Additionally, facilities must obtain a stormwater sample once each quarter (including a snowmelt sample during the winter) and must ensure that such samples are taken within the first 30 minutes of a stormwater runoff event.
  • Get Your Staff Up to Speed. You will need to retain an outside laboratory to analyze samples, but the Permit allows appropriately trained staff to collect stormwater samples. Because the Permit requires a rapid response to a stormwater event, the presence of trained personnel on-site is critical. Accordingly, identify at least two staff members as responsible for stormwater monitoring. These staff members should understand the Permit's monitoring requirements (including monitoring locations and which pollutants to monitor), be familiar with the facility's SWPPP, routinely check the National Weather Service's "Forecasting of Rainfall Amounts" to identify monitoring opportunities and be prepared to quickly mobilize when a runoff event occurs.
  • Have a Stormwater Monitoring Kit Ready. When a runoff event occurs, staff will have less than 30 minutes to assemble the necessary equipment, reach the designated monitoring location and complete the sampling. Take the time now to assemble a complete stormwater sampling kit, keep it in a readily accessible and marked location, and ensure that the kit is always well-stocked. A good sampling kit will include, among other things, a rain gauge, rain and safety gear, a field sampling notebook, sampling containers, preservatives, powder-free latex gloves and a cooler to maintain the integrity of samples.
  • Select a Laboratory Before Monitoring. Don't wait until you have a stormwater sample in hand to contact a laboratory for analysis. Neglecting to coordinate with a laboratory in advance can result in mishandling of the sample or failure to timely analyze the sample. To avoid wasting effort and money, solidify arrangements with the laboratory well in advance so that your staff understands the appropriate procedures for preserving the sample and so that you can obtain any necessary equipment from the laboratory in advance. Be sure your lab is certified by the Minnesota Department of Health and equipped to analyze your samples in compliance with the MPCA's technical requirements.